What was your cycling experience like during the pandemic? Most of us were probably content to cycle in our own area as much as the rules allowed, enjoying the reduction in traffic. Some folk decided to take things a bit further, and took the opportunity (between lockdowns) to embark on something a bit different. Cycling Through A Pandemic recounts ten of those trips from around the world, with extensive photography.
Jonathan Heard got the ball rolling by tackling LEJOG last August, using the GB Divide route: he took 24 days for the 1,600 miles, and enjoyed the physical and mental benefits that we all know cycling can provide.
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It took the imposition of Covid-related travel restrictions to force him to pay more attention to his home country than before - and LEJOG is always going to give you plenty of opportunity to do that.
Upon his return, Heard rightly suspected that there must be others with similar experiences around the world, and so the idea was born – along with the intention to raise funds for a bicycle-related charity. He has 'spent the past six months searching for cyclists who have embarked on biking adventures during the pandemic and interviewing them on Zoom.' Most of us can identify with the Zoom bit.
Some trips are as short as one day, although most of the contributors had undertaken rather more epic trips back in normal times; however, this book was only about rides during the pandemic, when life was very different for most people.
I did wonder why taking three days to cover 40 miles in India was a trip worthy of inclusion... but then I saw the terrain involved, and the time spent pushing or carrying, and realised that was good going. And no-one else had chosen a route 'through leopard country.'
When they set off, I presume the participants would not have been expecting to narrate these journeys, let alone provide a good standard of photographs: the fact the images are so plentiful, so interesting, and of such remarkably good quality is most impressive.
As with any 'coffee table' book, it is the pictures that dominate, and you could spend hours enjoying them. Unfortunately, you won't find captions for the images anywhere: in most cases it won't matter, but there are a few instances where it would be good to know more about the location.
It is possible that not all the contributors would have felt confident writing their own story, which might be why Heard has taken the lead, skilfully weaving quotes from them into a third person narrative: it works well.
Komoot is listed as the sponsor of the book, and provides the rudimentary mapping that accompanies each route; you can find more information about each journey on the Komoot website. However, it is unlikely you will want to follow all the routes exactly – Rae Trew-Browne's ride from Capetown ended at his father's house, for instance.
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This book is not trying to offer practical advice for a trip in the way Soigneur's Global Cycling Guidebook does, and nor is it giving you lots of routes like Ride – Cycle the World. Instead, it is just a way to mark 'this unique time in history with a physical hardback book and ... to celebrate the incredible adventures that so many of us had in our home countries during the pandemic.'
Your view of this book may be influenced by your opinion of the World Bicycle Relief charity, which is to receive all profits. I suspect most people would accept that WBR is A Good Thing, and worth backing. The cause has been supported in many ways, such as the incredible Alt Tour by Lachlan Morton; as a result of such activity, WBR has now distributed over 541,000 of the Buffalo Bikes.
By any normal standards £45 is a lot of money for a book – but by its very nature, one probably shouldn't be judging it by conventional standards. There are precedents for raising funds for WBR with a book, such as one SRAM produced for its 25th anniversary. SRAM wanted the price of one complete WBR bike for it though – $134 in 2012 – which makes 'Cycling Though A Pandemic' look good value.
Perhaps we shouldn't assess its value simply as a book, but to consider its effect as a charitable donation.
Big, plush coffee table book with some great tales and photos, and raises money for a worthy cycling charity
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Make and model: Cycling Through A Pandemic Stories From 10 Countries
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
From the publisher:
'A COLLECTION OF STORIES AND PHOTOGRAPHS
'The Cycling Through A Pandemic book project shares the stories of 10 cyclists from around the world who escaped Covid-19 and the endless news cycles, by escaping to the vastness and peacefulness of nature. These are stories of perseverance and the human spirit, spectacular landscapes and the pure and simple joy that riding a bike can bring you. We're marking this unique time in history with a physical hardback book and wanted to celebrate the incredible adventures that so many of us had in our home countries during the pandemic.
'This is the perfect opportunity to give back through cycling, a sport that has benefitted so many people during this difficult time. It has allowed us freedom, independence and a chance to explore our own countries. Whether cycling has helped us get to work, stay fit and healthy or been an escape, it's impacted many of our lives in a positive way.
'All profits from the sale of this book will be donated to World Bicycle Relief. WBR is a global non-profit and social enterprise that mobilises people in developing countries through the Power of Bicycles. They build and distribute specially designed, locally assembled, rugged Buffalo Bicycles to those who are challenged by distance.'
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Title: Cycling though a Pandemic
Author: Jonathan Heard
Publisher: Jonathan Heard
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Impressive quality and quantity of images.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The lack of captions.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Even taking the amount of colour and the number of pages into consideration, it's an expensive book; whether you feel it's worth the price probably depends on your willingness to view it as a charitable donation.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes, on the understanding that I was really making a charitable donation
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, on the same basis
Use this box to explain your overall score
It's a big, heavy, expensive coffee table book that highlights the good that cycling did during the pandemic – and raises funds for a good cause.
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding,
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